Job-growth outlook: Better, but still slow

Katie Weigel, who heads the Robert Half International office in Reno, feels a little more optimism as she talks with employers these days.

"Most people are going to end the year slightly ahead of last year," she says, and some are beginning to look at hiring accounting and finance professionals to support continued growth.

Similar hiring decisions by hundreds of employers across dozens of economic sectors once again will hold the key to the health of northern Nevada's economy in 2012.

No one expects a booming job market in the next 12 months, but the region made progress during 2011 in digging itself out of a deep hole.

The most recent numbers compiled by the research team at the state Department of Employment, Training and Rehabilitation found that employers in the Reno-Sparks region were issuing paychecks to 189,700 workers in November an increase of about 3,700 from the start of the year.

In Carson City, where employment growth has been less consistent, employment in November was estimated at 28,500, up by 300 from the start of the year.

And optimists found reason for cheer in the final weeks of 2011 as the 11.6 percent unemployment rate in Reno and Sparks in November stood well below the 13.6 percent of a year earlier.

Job growth in Reno-Sparks and Carson City, however, has lagged a bit behind the rest of the state in recent months.

The hospitality industry has been among the leaders in job creation in northern Nevada in recent months, with further strength found in the professional services sector.

Bill Anderson, who heads the state employment research team, expects modest growth in employment statewide over the next year.

But he cautions that recovery will be slow as employers are adding jobs at only about a third of the pace established during the two rebounds from recessions.

"This recovery looks to be slower than anything we've seen in recent history," Anderson says.

And he cautions that statistical measures may be misleading because large numbers of discouraged job-seekers are giving up the search for employment and may be leaving the state entirely.

Positive indicators, meanwhile, include:

* A growing number of employers in the state, as tracked both by new corporate filings as well as the number of companies that are paying into the unemployment insurance fund.

* An increase in the average workweek among Nevadans. The average late this year was 34.7 hours, up from 34.1 at the start of the year, the state researchers say. When the economy was at its peak in mid-2007, the average workweek was 37.6 hours. "The recent increase shows that employers are able to offer more work due to increased demand for goods and services," Anderson says.

More help in job creation is coming from efforts to attract new industries to the state as well as efforts to encourage existing employers to build their staffs.

"We're seeing some real progress," says Rob Hooper, executive director of the Northern Nevada Development Authority, headquartered in Carson City. "We're seeing expansions and we're seeing new companies."


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